WARNING: this is a long post. Sit down with a cuppa and learn some new things about keeping you and everyone around you healthy. All facts and symptoms are correct as of 15 March 2020.
There is a tonne of false information and fear mongering going around the world at the moment on Coronavirus that it is completely mind boggling. It stresses me out the extents to which this misinformation is shared, believed and acted on. Today, I am going to outline to you they ways in which you can protect yourself and others from the virus and disease in general
Before I get into this, I need to preface this with a disclaimer. I am not a medical professional. I studied genetics at university where my course was focused primarily on bacterial and viral genetics and currently I work as a senior microbiologist at a sterile pharmaceutical manufacturing plant. I am choosing to write this because a) I have been asked to by a couple people in my personal life because I have a background knowledge on bacteria and viruses and I seem to be good and explaining things and b) if I can reach at least 0.000001% of the population with some helpful information, than I feel I might see just a little less of the panic and there will be toilet paper back on the shelves so I can finally buy some now that my supply is low.
What is a virus?
Viruses are parasites. They need a host to survive and can’t do anything alone. Think of them like a newborn baby. They need a source of food, a source of warmth and protection from the outside world. And just like a pregnant mother, your body is the perfect incubator for a virus. Without you, they cannot survive. This is what separates viruses from bacteria. Unlike viruses, bacteria can survive for ages outside the body, like 100 hundred years, I’m looking at you anthrax and your nasty spore forming arse. So really, you’re not going to find a virus just chilling on your table top. Even HIV can’t be picked up from surfaces because it basically dries up and gets damaged so much it can’t infect someone else.
Viruses are very simple organisms. They’ve got a head with some DNA or RNA in it, a shaft, a tail and pins:
And that’s all a virus has. Everything else that every living organism has like proteins and an energy source, a virus needs to “steal” from the host because it just lucked out in the evolutionary draw and can’t make it for itself. This is important, because it ties in how you can protect yourself and others from coronavirus and disease in general.
Where do Coronaviruses come from?
Coronavirus is the family name given to a special subset of viruses that are commonly found in the bat family but also in other animals. Sometimes, these can be transferred from animals to humans, through eating of the meat, blood or other bodily parts. We have had other coronavirus outbreaks/pandemics such as SARS, also known as SARS-CoV-2 caused by animals, however they usually spread outside of ground zero by humans.
The virus (the actual microorganism) is called Coronavirus and the disease/illness is called COVID-19.
How to protect yourself and others
We all have a social responsibility to follow basic hygiene in our life, and even more so now. Yes, you can get sick from eating wild meat but the fastest way viruses transfer from human to human is from a droplet of fluid from one human body entering the other. Fluids include saliva, snot and other bodily things. Cover your mouth and nose with the crook of your arm or a tissue EVERY TIME you cough and sneeze and wash your hands thoroughly, with soap and water afterwards. If you are fine and healthy, you really don’t need to wear a face mask but if you’re displaying any symptoms, where one for others around you to protect them from your body fluids.
Because a viral infection lowers your immune capability, you are more than likely to pick up other infections as well during this time. For instance, last year I got a nasty throat infection caused by bacteria (I know it was bacterial because of the lovely puss coming from my throat). My immune system was low because it was too busy fighting an infection in my throat, which meant on top of this I was an open to all sorts of infection. And lucky me, I got a VIRAL upper, respiratory tract infection on top. Yay me. Almost 2 weeks out of work and I lost all fitness levels and my health in general never fully recovered. It’s this susceptibility to other infections is what is making coronavirus scary. If you are displaying any symptoms, do not do the selfish thing of visiting the shops, or your parents, the elderly and those who are already sick. This vulnerable group of the sick, immunocompromised and elderly can not afford to get sick. I do not mean financially, but I mean with their health and potentially their life. Just don’t be a dick and ignore all advice. Self isolations and quarantine is essential to stop the spread.
If you have travelled overseas to effected countries – follow your home countries guidelines for self-isolation on your return. Have a serious think about if you even need to travel overseas in the next few weeks as everything pans out around the world. Furthermore, just basic hygiene will serve you well. Avoid unnecessary contact with others (like being right up in the faces and handshakes) and touching your face – your nose, face and eyes are really great entry points for infections to enter the body.
What symptoms do I need to look out for
COVID-19 has symptoms that are very similar to the common flu, which means distinguishing it from other illnesses. In general, if you have any of these symptoms:
- runny nose
- shortness of breath
- and other symptoms like a sore throat
Just stay home and self isolate. Call the hotline in you area for what to do and also call your local GP and emergency hospital on further steps. To be 100% sure if you have COVID-19 or not, you do need to take swab or spit test. While waiting for results, self-isolate PLEASE.
Do I need to stockpile?
Nope. Nada. Non. I do not recommend stockpiling the necessary supplies beyond a two week period, for multiple reasons.
- We are community and we have those who can’t afford to stockpile so need to visit a grocery store either more often or have to really stretch the budget out. Really hard to do that if everything is gone and what is left is ridiculously overpriced
- The vulnerable of the community (like the elderly and sick) need access to groceries too and don’t have the means or transport in some cases to stock up for then a few days let alone a couple of weeks
- Fruit and veg and other necessary day to day food stuff does go off, don’t waste unnecessary food for your panic and overbuying
- In the case you do have to self-isolate, 2 weeks supply should see you through perfectly.
Just be a good human
The manic panic that the outbreak of coronavirus has caused revealed a lot of the xenophobia, racism and fear of society that it’s not surprising to me, I’m just disappointed in the selfishness and social panic that is being spread.
News outlets and social media users should be very careful of what they spread around. Recently I was sent this screen shot
and immediately the group chat were either making jokes or genuinely worried about their supply of toilet paper. I made a quip that the company was going to loose money. And then I paused. Could I trust this source of information? Turns out, no. Double Bay Today is just a satirical news outlet, like the Betoota Advocate. Basically, question your news sources and what is sent by your friends and posted on Facebook. Not everything is accurate and you need to be able to tell the difference between Fake News and really sources and fact.
Stay safe and healthy everyone and look out not only for yourself, but everyone else around you.